Wednesday, April 30, 2014

{Not So} Wordless Wednesday–Starting our Garden


Finally!  I have my act together!

Well, at least in this one tiny area of my life – our summer garden.  I have not been successful at starting a garden from seeds, but this year, I decided to give myself plenty of time to start the seeds, harden them off and get them in the garden around Memorial Day, the traditional time of year when veggies go in the ground around here.

So, Easter weekend, I found a great self-watering seed starting kit at my local Big Box hardware store and on Monday, April 21, Levi and I started our garden!

2014-04-26 11.21.55

We have fairly traditional plants going right now – spinach, salad cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, sweet peppers and tomatoes. 

2014-04-26 11.22.04

Five days later, our two varieties of Cucumbers were already sending up shoots!

Now, one week later, we are reveling in God’s amazing creation as we now see taller shoots and ‘maters coming up!

2014-04-27 20.13.34

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why Classical Conversations’ Challenge B Program Was Perfect for Us

It was almost a eighteen months ago that I had finally wrapped my brain around the goals and aims I had for my oldest son’s first year of high school.  I blogged a little about it here, meant to write more about it, but just ran our of time and steam.

We had a list of options to check out – some would take time, others were just a matter of having a few discussions in the car.  In the end, Ben nixed even entertaining traditional government (public) or private high school. He even nixed online classes (for the most part) and expressed the desire to really be with his peers.
After about a month of weighing options (local co-ops designed for high schoolers with elective classes for sibs, plus online courses), we settled into the idea of using Classical Conversations’ Challenge B program for his freshman year of high school.  And now, here we are, just a few weeks from completing the program and considering what do to for his third to the last year of home education. You can catch a little on my thinking about this here.
1.  Accountability – The challenge program provided accountability to both Ben and me. Ben had a list of assignments that had to be completed in a week’s worth of time, and I had the accountability to make sure it happened.  I appreciate the flexibility of the challenge program – I am still the teacher, but the tutor exercises that not-mom authority figure that helped keep us moving forward in our program.  I’ll admit, there have been (sadly) many occasions when we have gotten distracted by life, let a project or paper or book fall to the wayside and then not resumed it when we were less distracted.  With the ability for me to flex what I wanted Ben to accomplish for his work (for example, he was accountable for completing half of each Latin exercises), we were able to make CC work for us.
2. Novel Programming/ Classes – I faced reality a few years ago.  While I know that I can do anything to further my kids’ educations, I don’t.   I admire women who are easily able to gather together families to start a new co-op or those who easily put together enrichment classes.  I just realize that the skills necessary to do those sorts of thing are not in my skill set; however, I can easily come along side others and help make things happen.  Classical Conversations, then, has filled a void for me to allow Ben to do some great things that I wouldn’t normal have the gumption to initiate on my own.  Weekly public speaking events, a science project program and Mock Trial are three of the things I can think of off the top of my head that totally blessed our homeschool experience this past year.
3. Peer Pressure – I’m talking positive peer pressure here folks.  Last year, we participated in an online co-op for history.  I was hoping that some  peer pressure (completing assignments, online presentations,etc) would raise the bar in our home school for Ben in preparation for high school.  While it did to an extent, the students in class were very abstract to Ben (because the lived in his computer), and it didn’t quite have the effect I wanted.  This year, however, was perfect. Ben had two strong students in seminars with him, and I could tell that they really pushed him to excel.  I was most impressed by Ben’s turn around in Latin.  Latin is not a language that Ben likes, but he has done very well, not giving up at all.  His two classmates had already done a bit of Latin last year (the first ten lessons or so) and I know that Ben was a little discouraged at the beginning of the year as they worked through those lessons, which were Ben’s first encounter with the Language.  However, his tutor was really happy to see that once everyone was on an even playing field and learning new information, Ben really held his own and excelled.   We are even talking about continuing Latin for the next year to fulfill the college entrance requirements for foreign language (he has nearly a full credit for Latin 1 right now – a few more weeks and he would be ready for Latin 2).
This past month or two, the students have been reading short stories in preparation for their own short story.  Creative writing is not something Ben enjoys (or any writing, for that matter….), but I know that he really pushed to make his story presentable to his classmates.
Many people wonder how to award high school credit for a Challenge B program.  I do not think this is hard to do.  Based on the hours that Ben put into his work, he certainly earned elective credit in a number of classes.  I will be writing in a month or two on how we finish out the year, credit-wise, for Ben.  We have a few more things to do to finish the year well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Philippians in 28 Weeks {Crew Review}


For the past six-ish weeks, Luke, Levi and I have been working on memorize the book of Philippians.  Yes, you read that right….the book.  Stacy Farrell at Home School Adventure Co. has created a great system for Bible memorization.  If you are up for the challenge of going deep in God’s word, I suggest you put this on your list of Bible tools to consider in the near future.


The program is called Philippians in 28 Weeks ($14.95 download; $28.95 print; $9.95 cards only). We received the downloaded version of the program. 

What is included:  Everything that you need (minus a Bible) is included in this 167 page E-book. 

  • Concise yet thorough directions (and even help in offering a grade for this project is included)
  • Chapter-by-Chapter, week-by-week copy work pages, verse cards and log sheets to help you review and recite from memory the entire book!  In actuality, you can print off a copy of this book for each of your students, and they will have a workbook to use to help with the Bible memory.
  • A 28-week log for you and your student to catalog each of the four daily steps necessary to complete the program.
  • Each week has a page called "Reflections" which gives you and your students an opportunity to think deeply upon the verses you have been memorizing. Open ended questions can be answered in group study or as a written journal.

    The program is built upon five steps:

    1. Read the entire book of Philippians every day.  This took us 12 minutes.  Quite easy to set aside this amount of time everyday.

    2. Record.  Each day, write out your verse.  I asked Luke and Levi to copy them on whiteboards, one of their favorite ways to complete copy work.  Some days, I asked them to complete a fill-in-the-blank worksheet I made for them;  still other days, I asked them to write it on paper.  White boarding (did I just make up that word?) their verses (with various colors) was definitely the preferred method for daily copy work.

      Another way of recording your newly learned verses is to answer questions and journal what you have learned.

    3. Repeat.  There are business-card sized verse cards you can carry with you.

    4. Review and Recite.  At the end of each week, you recite all that you’ve learned from the beginning.

    5. Retain.  Then, at the start of the week, you review all you’ve memorized.

    How This Worked for Us:  The product is designed for ages 9-11 as a read aloud with parents, and for ages 12 and up to use independently.  Originally, I thought Ben would have time in his day to work on this, but he was up to his eyeballs in other stuff, so I gave him a pass.  Luke (11) and Levi (8 ) were my test subjects instead.  It seemed an easy and natural activity to build into our day, considering the other curriculum activities that we use rely heavily on memorization.

    My goal was to start our day with a reading of Philippians, which is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  I was really surprised at how fast it takes to read it – we were done in 12 minutes or so.  How many days do I waste 12 minutes when I could be doing something so valuable? In all honesty, it was humbling to see how simple it is to incorporate this program into our family.

    Next, I turned the boys attention to the verse for the day. OK, just so you know – I really adapted this to meet our family’s needs and season of life. But, I’m hopeful that you can see that this product is a tool that you can use to accomplish the same goal that Stacy Farrell had – to hide God’s Word in the hearts of her family.  There is no condemnation for taking longer than 28 weeks to memorize an entire book of the Bible!

    Instead of printing out the book, we chose to utilize some dry erase boards and fill-in-the-blanks to help us memorize the verses.  Every three or so days, I would add a new verse to our dry erase board.  I wrote out the entire verse and over the course of several days, erased key words so that the boys had to commit more and more of it to memory.  I felt like this was the best way to go with Levi being involved in the process.  The E-book copy work pages had small-ruled, plain lines for copy work, and I wanted Levi to have more space for his copy work.  You can see here that he really got into using the dry erase board:

    2014-03-24 09.05.03

    [And just so I don’t get in trouble for leaving someone out, Luke’s was just as adorable]

    2014-03-24 09.00.42

    While my adaptation of the program to meet my youngest son’s needs meant that we were not keeping up with the verse-a-day memorization rate that the program suggests, I did see great and exciting progress from the boys.  The best part?  My boys loved the opportunity to memorize scripture.  They enjoyed the challenge as more and more words were erased from their verses.  They enjoyed sitting and hearing God’s word. They loved writing their verses on the dry erase boards and proudly showed me their accomplishments:

    2014-04-16 10.20.38

    I will admit that one part that I inadvertently omitted during this review period was the reflection component of the program.  I totally forgot to print out the “Reflections” worksheets and journaling pages for each week’s set of verses.  I’m not sure the free responses pages would have been worth it for the age of my boys, but I do think think that there is value in going over some of the more easily answered “Reflections” questions in the book.  I love that these moments can provide some closer and cohesiveness to the memorization process.

    I also want to add my personal thoughts on reading the book of Philippians on a daily basis over the course of several weeks.  Reading the same book over and over is a soothing balm to the soul.  It is amazing to me God’s love just leapt off the pages and totally transformed my outlook for the day.  Each day, a different truth was tucked into my heart.  This has been a lovely lesson for this mama to learn over these weeks.

    My Thoughts and Recommendations:  This has been a wonderfully different way of incorporating Bible into our home school – but I certainly do not think this product is valuable for home school parents only.  I think any Christian family can utilize this program, and I would love to get to a point in our family’s scheduling where we could use this together as a devotional (indeed, there were some nights we did read the entire book of Philippians as a devotional). 

    Philippians In 28 Weeks reviewed at reapingaharvest


    This company has produced some very interesting products that can certainly bless your family.  Crew members reviewed a variety of materials:

    Philosophy Adventure
    Mere Christianity Journal
    The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions

    Click the link below to see these other amazing products.


      Homeschool Adventure Co. is offering a discount to my readers for any of their products that my Crew Mates and I reviewed! Just use code CREW-10 and take 10% off your downloaded product! 

    Keep in touch with Home School Adventure Co:


    Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


      All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

    • Tuesday, April 15, 2014

      A Little Love Letter to My Sons

      Dear boys,

      We are at the point in life when you often roll your eyes when I grab the camera to take a picture of some combination of you three.  "Is this for your blog?"  you ask. 

      The whole purpose for starting this blog was just to write down this amazing journey of home educating you three.  To share with family how you are growing.  An online scrapbook.  It has morphed since I started this, but that is OK. 

      Today, dear boys, I had a God moment while working through an online Bible study.  I am reading a book called Living So That.  Last week I was so impressed by God about one of the days of study that I made Ben sit down with me and go through part of the lesson.  The lessons in this book are so applicable to anyone at any stage in life, that I am going to keep sharing what I'm learning with combinations of you guys.

      I wanted to share with you this screen shot.  It will be helpful to you in your lives (I promise!) because you will wonder at times, is this really what God wants me to do?

      Now boys, this isn't really rocket science or anything new.  By the time you leave the house, you will probably have heard this from me at least a dozen times.  Recently, Ben has noticed how similar his Sunday school teachings are to what is being preached from the pulpit.  That is so good.  God is speaking and it is wise to listen and pray.

      I love you, boys. 

      Thursday, April 10, 2014

      March Madness

      We are not a basketball sort of family.  But every once in a while it is nice to push yourself outside your comfort zone.

      So with no more insight that knowing how to read a sports bracket, all five Abbetts took individual shots at creating An NCAA Bracket Of Awesomness.

      We are a high stakes betting family here.  I arranged a prize that is truly beyond all prizes.

      Winner picks ice cream flavor.

      This was a BIG deal for me.  I like nuts.  My favorite is Butter Pecan. I had already announced that Butter Pecan would rule the freezer if I won. Or maybe one of BP and the other a mocha-peanut butter- nutty something or other.  Can you believe I'd be so mean to my family, where all three of my boys dislike nuts?

      Luke and Levi with all 5 of our brackets predictions

      Since none of us has ever picked anything from the brackets, our family rule involved no money but we did have a huge handicap -- we were able to tally all our wins from the beginning of the series. Finally this past Sunday -- once the national championship contenders were lined up -- I was able to see who are big winner was:


      I'm happy to say that this was a really fun diversion for March. It has really helped boost our spirits and we've enjoyed a friendly rivalry.  This is definitely a new family tradition, and I'm sure the stakes will be even higher next year.

      Winner selects ice cream AND toppings.

      Wednesday, April 9, 2014

      Victus Study Skills System {Crew Review}

      Do you have goals?  Do you know how to obtain them?  Do your children?

      Intentionally teaching skills to be successful in life is at the heart of the Victus Study Skills System.  Through their Study Skills System Teacher Edition  ($40) and Student Workbook ($20), your middle and high school aged students can learn how to  manage time and resources – and their own attitudes -- so that they can accomplish their goals.

      What is Included:

      Both of these workbooks are necessary to lead your student through the study system.  You will want to read the Teacher Edition thoroughly before beginning, so that you have a firm grasp the philosophy behind the system and  each  of the 10 steps.

      Susan Ison, the founder of this method, began Victus study skills system when her first-grade daughter, after eagerly marching off to her room to show that she was big enough to (finally) have spelling tests to study, returned back to the kitchen in tears asking, “Mommy, how do you study?”  Ms. Ison realized that she needed a way to teach her children how to learn successfully.

      Did you know that “victus” is Latin for “way of life?” The program is meant to not just teach strategies for studying, but it is meant to also teach skills and systems which will carry over into life. The program has four main objectives:

      1. It helps students understand how to set goals and create manageable, small steps (objectives) to achieve their goals.
      2. Provide instruction on specific study skills such as;
      • time
      • organization of physical space
      • reading comprehension strategies
      • note taking
      • test taking
      3. The program is meant to help students develop positive attitude so that they can be successful
      4. It is meant to empower students to see that they have a role in their lives. (So important with this age when the often are questioning ‘why do I have to do this?’ so often!)

      The program is meant to be taught over the course of 5-days, in one hour blocks each.  You could also break it up into two weeks of 30-minute sessions if you thought your student’s attention would benefit shorter class times.  You will definitely want to have a student book for each student – there are great inventories, goal setting-sheets, and other assessments and tools that you will want each of your students to complete.

      The 10 sessions are broken up into three “Foundational Cornerstones.” You can see them listed on this Student Workbook table of contents:

      Note:  This sample is in color and is ©2013.  Though the content hasn’t

      changed, my review copy was ©2014 and was not in color.

      How This Worked For Us:

      The first section -- “Where am I now?” – is meant to be taught in one session. It includes two useful inventories – a study habits checklist comes first. I could see from this that some of the strategies to be taught through this course would be helpful for Ben.  But the really eye-opening section was a learning style inventory.  Although only three styles are included (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), it was fascinating to see that Ben scored himself just as I have always perceived him – high as a visual learner.  We had great discussions about ways he can take advantage of his visual strengths to help him study and store information.  As a matter of fact, that reminds me that I need to purchase some colored highlighters and pens for him.

      “Where do I want to be?” is a section that is meant to help students think in terms of their goals. This was a much harder section to go through, because Ben had never thought in terms of a mission statement. And for as much as he and I have talked about how to achieve merit badge goals, I’ve never before talked to him about owning his school work.  I can see that it has made a big difference for him, and we plan on using the semester goal planning sheets for the long-term.

      The third section is definitely the longest part of the program (it accounts for six of the ten teaching sessions – the last of the lessons is a complete review), but arguably has the main meat of the content – the actual time management/ study skills strategies.  Titled “How Do I Get There?”  Your five sessions will be divided like this:
      Time Management
      Organization and Study Environment
      PQRST Reading Strategy
      Active Listening
      Note Taking
      Test Taking 

      Two sections that I really wanted to work through with Ben were the reading Strategy and Note Taking sections.  He has great reading comprehension, however, when it comes to reading with purpose (such as reading a literature book then writing an essay), I can see that he isn’t very efficient.  Walking through the PQRST strategies (and sharing with him some tricks that work for me) was great.  In the Note Taking section, Ben and I shared some of our own note taking shortcuts (I love that some of his short cuts are based on C# computer programing coding!).

      I will admit that although I’ve never walked through a program that teaches study skills in such a comprehensive manner (and I really like that all these study skills are meant to empower and encourage our students to reach for their dreams and mission in life), we have worked through many of these items – such as test taking, note taking and organization – before.  What I appreciate about the way Ms. Ison approaches these skills is the comprehensive manner.

      Victus Study Skills System review

      My recommendations & thoughts: I think this is a great product that deserves to be used with students in middle school and high school (the earlier the better!).  I wish I had known about this when Ben was in 7th or 8th grade – I think it might’ve saved us some tears (especially in terms of time management).  While some of what is included in terms of organization and time management is not much different than what I’ve been telling Ben for a couple years, there is just something to be said about reading this advice in a third-party product to legitimize mom’s suggestions.  *grin*

      I often explain to the boys that their job at this point in life is to learn – not just their academics, but to learn about God, people, character skills – and I think this product does a great job of helping students see that their education is part of the process that leads them towards their goals and mission.

      Ways to Keep In Touch:
      Twitter: @VictusStudy
      Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
      All prices are accurate as of blog posting. 

      Saturday, April 5, 2014

      The Best Part of the Week


      Last week was a pretty momentous week.  Luke and Levi finished their first year of Classical Conversations’ Foundations and Essentials (for Luke) program.  The absolutely loved it.  Although writing is still difficult for Luke, he has some pieces that he is incredibly proud of … which makes Essentials a success all around.  Language Arts is not an easy subject for Luke, but he really showed a lot of growth and mastery.

      But the best part of the week was being able to surprise the boys.  This week was definitely The Week That Spring Began.  Warm sun is flooding the front of our house (Levi and I sit on the steps to the 2nd floor of our house and eat lunch in the warmth!), the boys are starting to play football in the street, scooters were dragged out of the basement.  It was lovely.

      To help shake off winter and get stretched out and strengthened and strong for spring/ summer, I hooked up with a local lady who turned half of her garage/ barn into an indoor rock climbing wall.  This was a great surprise for the boys – they love rock climbing – and just the thing to get us thinking about being outside again.

      PicMonkey Collage

      Ben has earned his rock climbing merit badge from his Boy Scout days.  However, it’s been a little while since he belayed anyone, so I appreciate that he had a refresher course.  And, I love the challenges that the instructor, Kellie, built into the class (see the middle and bottom pictures on the right) – the boys had to traverse the wall to move carabineers from one clip to another.  I think they had to travel back and forth 5 or 6 times.  They came out of their two hour session with HUGE grins and empty bellies (thankfully, I was able to get to the grocery store while they were in their class).

      I’m so grateful we are able to introduce rock climbing to the boys.  This was something that Dave and I enjoyed together during our dating years….and I hope we can all get out to some rocks here in New England and try some real climbing and bouldering soon.